Beijing's Take On Field Service Management

Just a week ago, after hosting 16 days of much anticipated and closely followed Olympic competition, Beijing passed the baton to London in a dazzling closing ceremony at its National Stadium. The Games of this 29th Olympiad commenced with the dizzying precision and coordination of 14,000 performers and 29,000 fireworks in the now famed Bird's Nest stadium. And in the weeks that followed the world's finest athletes competed head to head for podium spots in 28 sports. From my own living room I watched Michael Phelps swim his way to an unprecedented eight gold medals, Jamaica's Usain Bolt far outpace the competition to secure the title of world's fastest man, and countless other memorable performances.

It's only natural to wonder how they -- the athletes -- do it. Is it just pure genetics? Lots of gym time? New stretching techniques? Performance-enhancing substances? But if you're a telecommunications aficionado you might wonder how did they –- Beijing –- pull off non-stop coverage throughout the games, and seemingly without a hitch? After all, had Beijing been unable to deliver uninterrupted comprehensive telecom service at crucial moments, an entire world could have missed out on so many of the historic moments made this summer.

As a starting point, CNC Beijing was selected as an official telecommunications partner for the Olympics, and was tasked with delivering fixed line, broadband, video transmission, and internet service for the Olympics and entire city of Beijing. Given the protracted time frame, record magnitude of the games (athletes from 205 countries/regions competing across 37 venues), and shear volume of people to prepare for (the Olympics brought an additional 7 million people to Beijing's existing 15 million); CNC needed a field service management strategy and supporting technology that was scalable, functionally sophisticated, centrally focused, real time, and SLA driven.

To help ensure that telecommunication service and network management met the Olympic Committee's high expectations, CNC selected ClickSoftware's technology to schedule, monitor, and manage field engineers across all tasks and venues during the Olympics. Integrated with a centralized control center and connected to SMS-enabled cell phones, the complete solution was able to satisfy the major needs for the committee.

  • Optimally managing field workers. To maximize uptime, 1,000+ field service technicians divided across 14 specialties were optimally scheduled based on their skills, tools, locations, venue security clearance, and availability.
  • Meeting stringent SLA requirements. Every second counts when meeting tight SLA windows. The Olympics were no exception; the final solution and process had to be effective and streamlined enough to schedule all calls to a field technician within 5 minutes. Followed by allotting technicians with small windows to resolve the issue –- in the instance of a level A call just 30 minutes.
  • Managing all operations in real time. Every task was pushed to engineers and received in real time, and engineer status was reported back centrally in real time. This enabled the central call, scheduling, and network monitoring center to manage every venue, engineer, and task in real-time through Web-based interfaces equipped with alerting functionality and KPI status reporting to manage by exception.

What have we learned? More traditional field service organizations can apply CNC's approach to improve their own operations in a few key ways:

  • Shortening the scheduling cycle. Most repair and maintenance tasks can only be executed so quickly by field engineers. In addition, to ensure that engineers effectively resolve jobs the first time around and to make sure safety is taken into consideration, firms probably don't want their techs approaching their work hastily. Instead, reexamine the scheduling process for process steps that can be collapsed, streamlined, or entirely automated to make up ground.
  • More discretely managing tasks. Dare I say micromanage? As service tickets were scheduled to engineers automatically, SMS messages went to engineers and venue managers. And while engineers accepted jobs they reported their status back to the control center also via SMS. Constant reporting allowed for accurate, more real-time status updates and in turn a better view into which tasks were in jeopardy and required manual intervention.
  • Making appropriate technology simplifications. Although ClickSoftware, a best-of-breed optimization field service management vendor was selected as the heart of this system, the mobile hardware selected was a cell phone enabled with SMS. These weren't tablet PCs, ruggedized laptops, or blackberries for that matter. By simplifying the technology that the engineers had to operate CNC eased communication and cut down the time some mobile operations take to officially accept, run through, and close jobs.

Elisse Gaynor
Researcher, Business Process & Applications